Thursday, December 23, 2010

Which One?

A couple of weeks ago, I came up with a pickup line that at least suits me. Since those couple of weeks ago, I've been analyzing it for kind of maximum effectiveness, figuring out which words would work best for me.

The original incarnation is: "So, what'd I miss before we met?"

I like this, but I'm iffy about the "we". I would only be inclined to use the "we" if I was interested in the woman right away. If I found something interesting about her, but wasn't interested in the entire her right away, yet still wanted to know more, I'd likely use this one:

"So, what'd I miss before you met me?"

Now here's the tightrope of this one: By using this, it may convey the confidence I have. Yet, it may also be construed as egotistical. I'm not sure yet.

I haven't had the chance yet to use either one, so for now, I'll ruminate. Both of them are as fine-tuned as I can get them, so maybe it just depends on the woman's perception. Depending on the woman, I'll chance it with either one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Something Has Changed

Let me start with a question: Does the feeling one gets on rollercoasters correlate to sex? Don't snicker. I'm new, and still untapped. I'll get to the reason for that question later.

On Thursday, I had it out with my mother. Well, Mom didn't really respond during my passionate tirade beyond a few compulsory "Well, I did this," and "I did that," but she did ask my opinion on 28 years of tumultuous marriage, of which I've witnessed 23 of those years. Everything that I've thought, every annoyance I've had at Mom and Dad's bickering, every explosive fight between them that I've cowered from, every instance where Mom spent six hours fuming over some small thing that Dad did (and I know it may not have been a small thing to Mom, but you've got to set your priorities in life, especially when it's been a repeat offense, like him forgetting somewhere she wanted him to stop on the way home from work), all of it came pouring out for 20 minutes straight. And after, I felt complete relief. I felt completely new. I felt like I had truly been reborn, that I had entered a new phase in my life. I determined that I would let nothing bother me in my life anymore. In the weeks leading up to this, I began to let my parents' squabbling bother me less and less. I used to want to know exactly what's kept their marriage together by a very thin string, or why Dad was attracted to Mom, but I'm never going to find out. There's no answer. All I can do now is concentrate fully on what I want in my own life, and that includes my own relationship, whenever that might be, but not too long now.

That night, I had a dream that I was in color, and people in fedoras and other diners at a restaurant were in black-and-white. And I couldn't relate to any of them. And I realized that there is a generational difference, that what was good for those people back then, and my parents, it's not good for me. I want to be attentive to a mate. I want someone who fascinates me every day, who makes me shake my head in wonder and think, "What will the next day bring? Because I want more of that."

The next day was the first day of the rest of my new life, and I was surprised, stunned and flattered. It began with someone on Facebook surprised that I had taken a job, saying, "I thought you were a man of leisure." I had never thought of myself that way before, but I am now. After I described to him the job of a substitute campus supervisor (which includes being paid for reading, because depending on how many students there are to take to the office, there's a lot of downtime), he said it sounded like something out of "Office Space," and at first, I didn't understand. But as the day went on, I realized he was right. I have the same type of job Peter Gibbons had at the end of the movie, a job he loved. And I'm just as happy as he was.

The day skyrocketed when I went into room 624 to pick up a kid to take to the office at the request of one of the assistant principals. As I turned to walk out, I heard a "hello" from the left side of the room, and it was one of the girls in the class. As I walked out, another waved to me. Now, I know I lost a lot of weight, from 260 lbs. to 208 so far. But I didn't expect this, and I was totally floored and flattered. And I love it. Me, considered attractive by others. Those girls are out of my legal jurisdiction, so I'm obviously not going to pursue anything further, but now that I've impressed that demographic, I'm going to work on my own.

The wonderful feeling I got from that instance stretched into the next day, Saturday, the next greatest day of my life. Meridith and I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain, because they were having a toy drive in which you donate a toy or two worth $15, and you get free admission. We waited at the front gate, deciding to stand instead of sitting near one of the trees around the entrance, and it was easy because with all the weight I lost, my feet don't hurt anymore if I walk great lengths, as I did during the day, or if I stand for nearly an hour, as I did then. Meridith and I had a great conversation with one of the hosts wandering the entrance talking to people, and we talked about the cheerleaders who had come to the park to perform in competition at the Golden Bear Theatre, about how I'd be more impressed, and probably more aroused, if those cheerleaders could do the routines in heels, and also about the park itself, about the recent changes in management, the upcoming new rides, and the re-theming of Superman: The Escape. Great guy. Meridith told me that he had said that he's on Facebook, and I looked last night, but couldn't find him. I'll look again later today.

Our first ride at the park was on Ninja, which immediately became my new favorite ride, because it felt almost orgasmic with the sharp turns and drops. At the end, I asked out loud, "Does anyone have a cigarette?" I tried that line again at the end of Viper later in the day, foreplay before going on Ninja for a fourth time, and someone laughed. Those forces on Ninja feel soooooooo good. I hadn't been that happy in months, and I told Meridith later, not only because of the ride, "Why shouldn't I live my life like I'm at a Disney theme park? We don't know why the hell we're here, so let's do as much as possible that we love."

Before Ninja, we went to the Skytower, which now is a museum of sorts, with pieces of rides from Magic Mountain's past, as well as photos of what it had decades ago, and found that it wasn't open yet. After three times on Ninja (I appreciate good loving at that near-late hour of the morning), we went back to the Skytower and found it was open. I had a great conversation with the female elevator operator about how boring the Santa Clarita Valley is, and immediately expressed my sympathies when she said that she lives in Antelope Valley. I couldn't feel any sparks between us (I'm always looking, but subtly), but she was nice. On the way down, I talked to a blonde-haired girl working the elevator, and we got to talking about New Year's Eve. I told her that it's fun on New Year's Day to go on YouTube and see the videos people shot at the park on New Year's Eve. She said she had already asked her boss for that day off, and I told her that now, she'd better be really on top of it. Nice girl as well, but I liked the first one better. Unfortunately, I didn't see her outside of the elevators before we headed elsewhere.

During the day, Meridith and I got to talking about our futures and....I'm seriously thinking about having kids one day. I'm not ready for it right now. But you know, it would be nice to introduce a new generation to all the books and movies I have loved. And I learned some surprising things from her that were probably not brought to me because before the forced weight loss, and during all the years before, I had been vehement about remaining single.

First, Meridith told me that if I had kids, she would spoil them rotten. After our fourth ride on Ninja, as it was beginning to get dark, I jokingly asked her to be specific about what she would spoil them with, so I could save money. Not to be a cheapskate, mind you, but I was just curious. I told her that if there were any books involved, the kid(s)'s dad would probably steal them away from them. I know though that boy or girl, or boys or girls (one or two; I'm not sure yet, but three and four seem like too much to me), they're going to be a lot smarter than I am, and that's not scary unsettling, but just scary and amazing. I started reading when I was 2 years old; the next generation's probably going to have a bookcase installed in the womb, and coming out having read all of Dickens and probably many of Roald Dahl's books, too.

While we were sitting near the lockers in massage chairs that cost far too much to put cash into ($1 for a 3-minute massage? Nah), Meridith said that when we were at Chick-fil-A some weeks ago, Mom had seen two women at a table near us. One was a mother, and the other was her son's girlfriend, and the girlfriend had decided just like that to go out to lunch with most likely her future mother-in-law, and it was a very friendly outing, according to my mother. Apparently, Mom wants someone that's like a daughter to her. Well, that was naturally what I was thinking. Someone like that for Mom, and someone like a sister to Meridith. I wouldn't do it any other way. And I hope it'll be that way on the other side as well, because I'm not getting involved in all those tiresome "Oh, my mother-in-law is so terrible" jokes. I can be funny, but not like that.

That night, or most likely very early this morning, I had a dream in which there was another set of middle school girls, and the one comment I kept hearing above all others was that, to them, I was a "hottie." Me. That. Me? That? I'm still stunned, but I think I must have freed more than just everything I've kept inside up until late Thursday afternoon. I think I fashioned an entirely new personality for myself that I began embracing on that very day. For example, at Six Flags, I unashamedly wore a Batman cape that my sister had won at Whack-a-Mole and gave to me. I loved that about the park that day. A lot of people were wearing capes, which meant there were a lot of superheroes in the park.

This morning, I watched "Julie & Julia" with writer/director Nora Ephron's audio commentary, and I was utterly charmed by the movie all over again. And, watching Amy Adams, I determined that besides everything else I'm looking for (I want a rapport like William Powell and Myrna Loy had in "The Thin Man"), I might seek an Amy Adams-type. She's heart-wrenchingly beautiful to me.

I love my new life. And no matter what happens, no matter how many further arguments Mom and Dad have (such as the one they had a little while ago, which will continue in spurts throughout the day), I'm looking out for me. I'm the only one in this body (and it's becoming such a good-looking body, too), and I need to do what satisfies me. I partly have the job I want, I know it's the kind of job I want full-time, so now I need to seek out the other half of the life I want. For now anyway, my one true love in life is reading, but I look forward to that eventually changing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Devastating. Not devastated, because through the surprise and sudden disbelief, I was trying to figure out who these women were when they had been girls.

I was dreaming, some time in the night, and I hadn't felt like this in a dream since many months ago when a brunette had been so happy to see me, after a conference/seminar thing, that she ran to me and kissed me. I felt total joy, and was deflated when I woke up.

During this dream, and when I woke up from it, I was trying to figure it out. Many notes were handed to me, some that looked long enough to be letters, but had only covered the front and back of a sheet of paper. On these notes were some shocking revelations. Different girls I had apparently known in middle school and high school told me that they had had crushes on me during those years. Me? Where were these girls? Why hadn't I noticed these girls?

I was very focused in middle school and high school. I knew what I loved and I stuck with it. I loved aviation, so I spent my days in the relative infancy of the Internet (moving toward graphic-based interfaces, away from total text) looking at photos of planes, commercial airliners, as well as photos of plane crashes, considering a possible career in the NTSB, investigating plane crashes. I began writing more fully in 1998, leading to joining the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Teentime pages in 1999, and so I focused on my love of movies, which I think most likely began in 1992, when I was 7 years old and copied by hand the Orlando Sentinel review of the animated comedy "Bebe's Kids" onto a sheet of posterboard. I also remembered the first two movies I had ever seen. I was 5 years old, it was 1990, and Mom had taken me to see "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in April, and then Dad had taken me to see "Jetsons: The Movie" in July.

So I had aviation and movies. Also, I'd been reading since I was 2 years old. My 3rd grade teacher actually called my parents in once because he was concerned that I was reading on a level far above my classmates, exemplified by the John Grisham novels and other novels I had been bringing to class to read. Go figure.

So then, aviation, movies and books. These were my three preoccupations in middle school and high school. At lunch, I'd read. I wasn't into social circles or cliques. In fact, I didn't even notice much of any cliques in my schools since there were so many students that it didn't seem like there was any time for any of those to form.

I knew a few girls, had crushes on a few girls, was let down easy by two, but I didn't go beyond that. There were movie books and other books to read. One of my favorite sights growing up in Florida was at the Main library branch of the Broward County Library system in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, and there were long, long shelves stocked with movie books. I wanted to take them all home to read.

How did I know these girls then? And how in the world could they have noticed me like that? I wondered if maybe they noticed the confidence I exuded without effort. I remember in my 11th-grade Algebra class, I asked the teacher to let me out in the middle so I could go to the librarians' office to watch the announcement of the Academy Award nominations. My mom worked in the library as an assistant, so I had an easy in. And he did.

Maybe they saw that I knew what I loved and I embraced it, without concern for social reprecussions. Maybe they didn't want the macho boyfriends they saddled themselves with, and wanted someone they could have an ongoing conversation with, someone perhaps sensitive to what they were, what they wanted, and what they needed. I could do all that. That ties right into unfulfilling relationships. They wanted something more. I could be that more.

Could that have been the same reason I had received those notes? Were they in the same rut they had put themselves into in middle school and high school? Did they now have unfulfilling marriages? Did they realize finally that they're not immortal and that they should do something completely pleasing for themselves?

Nothing like this has happened to me, nothing that could have triggered this dream. I wasn't disappointed that these girls, now women, had waited this long to tell me how they felt, but I did wish that they had acted much earlier. My experiences in middle school and high school were interesting enough on my own, what with all the voracious reading (I've realized recently that my one true passion in life is reading. I like writing, but I love, love, love reading much more), but would they have been even more fascinating had I gone out with these girls, had dated a few of them, maybe even found The One amidst them all? I don't know. My life might have become incredibly tumultuous. I don't wish I had tried more back then. There's no reason to wish. I'm not there, I'm here. I will try more now, provided we move to Nevada soon enough already.

Friday, November 26, 2010

If Fruits and Vegetables were the Only Medicine, I Wouldn't Have to Pay $189 a Month to Blue Shield

Here's the result of those five months of body- and mind-wracking anxiety: I've got not what I would call a full-on-brawl cold, but rather just a stuffy nose that goes in and out based on when I've taken Sudafed and had decaffeinated tea mixed with honey, lemon, and as I was told to put in, a little sugar, even though I prefer only honey and lemon. Mom says a little sugar helped my sister get rid of her ailment faster.

Fine. I agree with this. It's only a little bit of sugar, far less than I used to consume back when I could seriously ask NASA for planet certification, but leave me to my own methods.

I got up this morning, after having slept 7-and-a-little-plus hours from 10:22 last night to 5:37 this morning. I can't start my day at 5:37, unless I'm scheduled to go to work at my dad's school, in which case I just lay there quietly, keep my eyes closed (which I learned works better for me because it at least conserves a little more energy than blinking right then and there), and wait until his alarm goes off in the other room.

So I tossed and turned a bit, not as violently as I did when I was completely worried about sleep during the worst of my anxiety, and eventually drifted off again to a dream that involved construction at the side of my house, some elaborate gazebo I think, or maybe just an amphitheater. I woke up, and I felt fine, at least in my body. My nose was still stuffed, one nostril always open and available, though their shifts switch throughout the day. I have a slight cough, but nothing that'll explode into pneumonia. After I decided it was time to work toward reducing the anxiety, and switched to a better diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, I had hoped that any future illnesses I might have would be dramatically lessened by all that crunching and chewing. For example, I saw yesterday on the package of baby spinach that spinach is considered a superfood that helps a healthy immune system. I'm getting back to one of those. I'm sure it was battered considerably during that great and terrible personal storm, but it feels like it's helping me now.

Mom's been a heroic help, too, first and foremost for the suggestion of the tea, second because she had bought the Sudafed quite some time ago in anticipation of anything like this happening. Good move. But one thing she told me this morning that I refused to follow was to swallow the orange pulp already.

For breakfast, I have Cheerios (the plain kind, if I have them, which I didn't, so I had multi-grain Cheerios and will continue with that until I get another box of the plain kind) and fruit. It's usually a Bartlett pear, but I've been out of them all this week, so I've had the Valencia and other oranges from the fruit bin in the fridge. The Bartletts and the bananas sit in separate bowls next to the stove on top of a folded paper towel sheet.

My teeth are strong, but orange pulp takes a little bit of time to chew. It's not a McDonald's Shamrock Shake, or the many times when I was overweight, didn't much care, and ate faster than any human should probably eat. I used to swallow macaroni and cheese without chewing. Fettucine Alfredo merited one or two chews, and then down it went. I'm sure that's part of what brought on the anxiety, the shock of my system in trying to process generally unchewed food, along with the copious amounts of sugar I'd easily bring down into my pit without much thought of the consequences.

So this morning in the kitchen, Mom saw me still chewing the orange pulp and told me to just swallow it. Uh, no, for that reason. Anything that I chew will be chewed thoroughly. Then she told me I looked like a cow and I replied, "I'm not here for appearances." It's not her mouth, and it's not her body, though she was the UPS company that delivered me. I need to be much more careful with this hardware than I was before. When I began improving what I ate, and began to embrace more fruit and vegetables, I started to feel a bit better, and I got very lucky. My nerves, screaming inside my body like they were in Abu Ghraib, was one of the most horrible experiences I had with anxiety. It's said that if your nerves are acting up like this, you need to change something, though for a while, it's hard to change anything, because you're so confused about what it is and it feels so rotten. Add to that the little sleep I got over that period of time, and it was doubly horrific. If I want to chew anything to its natural conclusion, even if it takes a while, then I'll do it. I don't care about those comments anymore, just like I'm working to make sure that Mom and Dad's continued arguing doesn't affect me as much as it used to. I realized that there's nothing to figure out or solve about their marriage, it'll always be messed up, and I need to think about me, in whatever I want to do in life, be it as a writer or hopeful lover.

Though I do sound more nasal than I did yesterday, one thing that did help was going out for a little while. Since no campus supervisor at my dad's school needed a substitute up to Thanksgiving, I had been in the house since Monday. I needed to get out, and fortunately, Dad had to go out to get The Signal and the Los Angeles Times at the newsstand store near K-Mart (One day I'll go through the swinging double doors they have there, with the sign that basically says, "Get out if you're not going to buy anything," and see what their porn stash looks like, partly out of curiosity), and then to one of the supermarkets to pick up a few things to complement Thanksgiving dinner, such as onions for the stuffing, and we needed bread. We got the onions at Ralphs (doesn't any supermarket in Southern California believe in a possessive apostrophe where necessary?), where I also partially restocked my supply of Bartlett pears, Gala apples, and bananas, and then to Vons for bread. That outing helped a lot. I felt better; I felt more human that I had in those morning hours before we went out. Before that, I was worried that the anxiety might rear up again. After I had gone out, I forgot all about that.

That I slept fine this morning was an absolute miracle, considering how much I worried myself when I spent two days and a combined 10 hours in the middle of the week reading over proofs of my forthcoming book, and realizing why I don't spend so much time on the computer anymore. I had my music, such as the 1969 cast album of the Broadway musical Company, and I played many of those songs over and over, but the work just got so tedious, and I was reminded of how I pushed myself so hard with this book, how I read so many books for the purpose of research, how I transcribed 30-40 pages of notes at a shot into Microsoft Word, how I wrote and wrote and wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. I know it was my first book, but my biggest regret is shutting out more than I should, such as the other books I could have read during this project that weren't related to this project. But you know, as I read each essay, and I was making corrections in a separate file to be sent to the copy editor to work on, I was proud of what I'd done. My essays read so well, and I'm glad I worked as hard as I did, but I will not kill myself like that again. I wasn't passionate about some of the essays I wrote, but they read as if I was. And that's a huge accomplishment. But next time, I will not do what I did just to write well. I will write what truly makes me spark like 4th of July fireworks, and I will do research as necessary, but I will not feel like it has to be done right in the moment, and allow myself more than just two or three minutes to breathe before I hold my breath and dive back below the surface of my work.

In other words, even though this cold was partly brought on by not dressing warmly enough, even though it didn't seem that cold at first, I will not run myself down so hard and harshly that this happens again. And I will chew my orange the way I want, thank you.

Edited to add at 9:36 a.m.: I just received in my e-mail the corrected version of my book from the copy editor. Now I know I'm going to have to go into it alongside of my corrections Word file and make sure everything is correct. I'm remembering just to breathe, that this is nearly the end of this sometimes strange and surreal trip, but it'll be worth it when I get my five free copies in the mail ahead of its publication. And then I'll leave it until that time and make sure the rest of the day is filled with everything I love, and every day after that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Movies Made Easy

When I was a film critic for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Teentime pages, and then Film Threat and The Signal and Screen It!, I watched movies all the time. For Teentime, I'd go to Muvico Paradise 24 in Davie, Florida all day on Saturdays, and then press screenings in later years (One of my fondest was missing school for a morning screening of the Disney film "Dinosaur," which my mom allowed, since she took the day off, too, and drove me to it). For Film Threat, I reviewed independent films, and for Screen It!, did extensive reviews of films released before 1996, noting exactly the violence, sex, drugs, etc., almost like a transcript of the entire film.

I seemed to watch more movies than doing anything else in my life and I think that's one thing that brought on the anxiety I had. I was finished writing "What If They Lived?" and the owner of Screen It! told me he wasn't making as much money as before with the site, and couldn't pay me the $150 he had paid me previously. He was a mensch, because he didn't ask if I could write for lower pay. He simply said that the site was going to be revamped, and hoped that that would boost what had been profitable before. So I honestly felt useless on two fronts, that I didn't have another book to do to keep myself busy, and I had lost what I think I had basically defined myself by, writing these elaborate movie reviews that I consider the best on that site. I was dedicated.

As the anxiety lessened and I vowed to make changes in my life and put them into action, I decided to watch less movies. Sitcoms, Antiques Roadshow, basketball games, all acceptable to me in the living room, on the Tivo. But sitting in my room as I did, watching movie after movie? No more.

It took a few weeks of getting into the routine, but I like what I have now. On Saturday mornings, early Saturday mornings, after I've finished breakfast by 7:30, I watch two movies: A crapshoot and a favorite. The crapshoot is from Netflix, something I haven't seen, which, this past Saturday, was "The Joneses," which I thought was brilliant, and a marked improvement from last Saturday, when I couldn't get past 20 minutes of "Just Wright," even though it was basketball-related. The writing wasn't outlandishly bad, but subtly bad, and I get more annoyed when it's like that.

The second movie on Saturday was "My Blueberry Nights," my 7th favorite film.

I give my Sunday mornings completely over to audio commentaries. This morning, I listened to the audio commentaries on "An American in Paris" and "Frost/Nixon." Always double features. I will never add a third or watch something else after I've finished two, such as episodes of "Scrubs," say, because by the time I'm done, it's either past 11 a.m. or closer to noon, and it's time to get on with the rest of the day. Unless I've got a movie on the Tivo in the living room (and even then, they end up sitting there for quite a while because I inevitably have other things I want to watch), I only watch movies on the weekend.

While I was watching "An American in Paris" and listening to Patricia Kelly, Gene Kelly's widow, guide a masterpiece of an audio commentary, I began planning my movies for the next three weeks, and I like what I have ahead. Like, not love, because of the crapshoots. I can't be sure yet if I'll love them until I've seen them.

On Saturday, I have planned "Lovesick" (checked out from the library on VHS, unfortunately the only way I could get it, but despite the temptation, I was not going to pay $3 at Big Lots yesterday just to get it on DVD and see it. I was tempted to do the same for "Heartburn," since I want to read all of Nora Ephron's books right now, but no) and "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (from Netflix. After my association with Screen It! diminished, I dropped the 3-discs-at-a-time plan to one disc, to save my dad money since he still pays for it). I saw "The Mirror Has Two Faces" a long time ago and I liked it, but after seeing Barbra Streisand on a recent episode of "Oprah," I have a yen to see it again.

For Sunday morning, I want to listen to the audio commentaries for "My Favorite Year" and "Rocky Balboa" (That one I bought from Big Lots for $5, and well worth it, because I like the first and sixth films the best. I also bought for the second time "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," since Julianne Moore is one of my favorite actresses, I should have at least one of her films in my collection, and I have no idea why I threw it out the first time, except that I probably had too many DVDs back then, and it was caught in that wave).

The Saturdays and Sundays for the following two weeks are tentative, since I'm not sure yet when we're going to Six Flags Magic Mountain to take advantage of their toy drive-free admission deal. You bring in a $15 toy, and you get in free. We spent $50 yesterday at Big Lots for toys for me, my sister, and Ivan to bring with us to donate. Still worth it, since we made sure that the toys related to each of our interests. For me, two Nerf basketball sets; for my sister, toy cookware; for Ivan, a Sesame Street-themed doctor's kit, since his mother is a registered nurse.

So, for possibly Saturday, December 4th, either "Heartburn" or "An Evening with Kevin Smith," and "California Suite."

For possibly Sunday, December 5th, the audio commentaries on "Julie & Julia" and "Grease" (After I finished "An American in Paris," I popped "Grease" into my DVD player to see if it had an audio commentary, and it has one by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch).

For possibly Saturday, December 11th, I'm not sure yet what the crapshoot film will be, but the second film will be "The American President."

For possibly Sunday, December 12, the audio commentaries for "Beavis & Butt-Head Do America," and "From Russia with Love." Rather than going in order by year with the audio commentaries for the Bond films (I own nearly all of them, except for "Quantum of Solace"), I decided to listen to the ones related to my favorites, or rather at least one of them, since most of my favorites have two commentaries on the first disc. Over time, I'll also listen to the commentaries for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (my absolute, tippy-top favorite Bond film, and the best of the series), "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Licence to Kill," "GoldenEye," and "Casino Royale."

Watching movies like this is far more relaxing to me, and it gives way to more time to get back to my always-love: Reading. I've been reading since I was 2 years old, and one of my regrets while I was voraciously reviewing movies is that I never gave myself time to simply sit and read. That is likely one of the reasons I'm glad to be free of it now, but also because I don't feel like I'm in a cycle anymore that doesn't have a way out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I've Been Waiting/For a Girl Like You....No, Not Her.

We got home last night from our hair stylist (I could say "barber," but he does my sister and my mom's hair too in his garage), and from Ralph's where I loaded up on broccoli florets, carrot chips, mushrooms, two bananas, two gala apples, and a Bartlett pear, and I got to work on the Freelance Daily newsletter, with "Jeopardy!" on next to me, paying some attention to it but mostly waiting for "The Big Bang Theory" to come on.

After three days, Meridith and my mom were STILL talking extensively, much more than they do on any other normal given day. I thought it strange, but didn't think anything else of it. Then, Mom told Meridith to tell me what was going on, concerned that I might not approve.

You see, either the first or second Sunday in December, we're going to Six Flags Magic Mountain because they're having a toy drive where you bring in a $15 toy, and you get in free. The day before yesterday, I was excited to go with Meridith, to have my partner-in-crime with me at the park. I didn't mind that she doesn't want to go on many rollercoasters. I only want to go on Viper, since it's my favorite, and the rest of the time, I can really get the exercise I've been sorely lacking these past few weeks, despite at least two days over those past few weeks spent at my dad's school as a substitute campus supervisor, and I walked that campus extensively. Plus, to go from ground level to Samurai Summit where the temporarly closed "Superman: The Escape" ride is along with "Ninja," you have to hike nearly horizontally, and that's exactly the kind of walking I've wanted for so long already.

Last night, Meridith told me that she invited Ivan to go with us.

I've known Ivan for a few years now, though not fully. And that's been ok with me, because he's a great guy. My favorite time spent with him was during Grad Nite for Valencia High at Disneyland, for which I was a chaperone, when we walked what must have been two miles from the parking lot to the entrance of Disneyland (since they weren't running the parking lot trams), and we amiably traded insults along the way. Ivan can give as good as he gets, and that impressed me the most. I always like someone who can match me mentally and he's outstanding at it.

Last Saturday, we met him again at the library, after seeing him a few times briefly last year when he worked at Office Depot. When I saw him, Meridith was already talking to him, and I told her not to let him go. After I had my books scanned back into the system, and I picked up what I had on hold, we three went to a table right at the edge of the entrance to the children's section, and we talked for a good half an hour. Find me any other conversation that can tie in anxiety (he had a few panic attacks in the previous year and told me what he went through with those), our mutual love for "Married with Children," (he owns many of the season sets, though I said I couldn't because Sinatra's "Love and Marriage" was replaced by a completely dumbass instrumental opening theme that ruins what made the show partly what it was), comments about diet (he gave up junk food completely, but can't go as far as I do in sticking to only fruit for dessert), and a whole host of other topics that had me glowing after Meridith, my dad and I got home from our errands that day.

Last night, Mom told me that there was one detail I didn't notice in that moment after we came home. I walked in the house, enamored with the fruit I got from Sprouts, including the bananas, which were incredible to look at there because nearly the whole crop in that section was green and would need time to ripen, which is exactly what I prefer. Add to that the "Simpsons World" book, 1,200 pages profiling each and every episode from the first to the 20th season, and "Finishing the Hat" by Stephen Sondheim, besides other books, and you could see how my attention could be diverted from what was going on with my sister. She was just standing at the open door, in the garage, dazed. But a happy daze.

Apparently, Ivan's liked her for 7 years now, but she went ahead (unknowingly) and dated a complete schmuck named Brian. I won't go into complete details, but he was not good for her at all, I pegged him as such right from the start, and I was eventually right, as Meridith saw when Brian continued to be jealous of the people Meridith spoke to and the friends Meridith had, and didn't want her talking to anyone else. That's as much of the mess as I'll broach.

Through all that time, Ivan was there. When Meridith didn't have lunch on some days, he made sure to buy a bigger portion and tell her that he couldn't finish the rest. This guy is an ultimate mensch that I wouldn't mind having as a brother-in-law some day. I know that it's up to Meridith what she wants to do, and I respect that, and I will not interfere, but if she hadn't acted and considered, as she's doing now, I might have overshot the runway.

Getting back to Six Flags Magic Mountain, Mom wasn't sure how I would take it that Meridith had invited Ivan to go with us. I was completely enthused. To some extent, thus far, I consider this guy a friend. He has such a good soul and a good heart, that I'm relieved Meridith will finally get what she deserves in a guy, if she decides to date him. We all went through hell with the whole Brian debacle, but it's not because of that that I say this. With any other guy, I would check out the area gun shops to see what kind of weapon fits my grip. I'm protective of my sister. But with Ivan, I've no need. I trust him absolutely. Most of all, for me at least, it's rare to find a delightful conversationalist in this valley like he is. It's just remarkable.

After I approved of Ivan going with us, Mom told me not to monopolize him when we're there. I won't. I understand the gravity of this, and I will hang back often and they can talk and do whatever they'd like. The only thing I'll probably be bothersome about is the corn cart at the Gotham City Backlot area. I haven't had roasted corn in years, and I really want that.

Which reminds me. In order to enjoy that, I'm sticking strictly to my diet until that day. No deviations. Last night, I had a SmartOnes lasagna florentine along with newly-bought baby spinach, carrot chips, and broccoli. This morning, I had Cheerios and the other half of an orange. Lunch will probably be toast with a little bit of peanut butter on it, carrot chips, baby spinach, and maybe one or two broccoli florets. I'm not sure what's for dinner, but with all of that consumed before then, I'll go a little riskier, but not by much. The point is that even with Thanksgiving dinner coming up, I'm not going overboard. I want that roast corn at the park, I may want a turkey leg, or sausage or something, and I also find out that at Goliath Goodies in the Colossus County Fair area, they have fruit there. Or I might have my sister put an apple in her purse for me. Either way, I'm going to be good about my diet up to that day. I'm not going to go wild at Six Flags either, but I want to enjoy myself without nagging thoughts.

Now, everything I wrote above was not the reason for this entry. I had another residual dream this morning. And boy, was it good.

I was at an ATM machine with a brunette I apparently liked. At one point, as we were talking, I put my arm around her waist, and she didn't shake it off or tell me to get off. I wanted to go on a date with her and I asked her, and she thought I was more into purusing a neighbor of hers, Stefanie or Stephanie. I'm not sure of the spelling, but I'm going to say it was the latter, because the one Stefanie I did know, Stefanie Markham in 11th grade, had knockout legs and could wear a dress very, very well, and is part of the standards I'm developing for the kind of girl I want. And I know for sure it probably wasn't that Stefanie this girl thought I was pursuing.

Anyway, we talked for a bit after we left the ATM machine, though I forgot about what, and then I fully woke up.

I liked this dream. And believe me, it felt good to be that close to a woman. And she seemed receptive to me. Plus, she matched a bit of what I'm looking for, with that partner-in-crime aspect. So far, so good with the standards list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No!! IN the plane! IN the plane!

A few things before the meat of this entry:

- When my anxiety began in May, I was pretty hefty. I could easily fold my hands over my stomach and rest them there without them sliding down. At one point, in August, when I saw the doctor again about all this, he said I had lost 10-20 pounds since the last time I was there. I must have been about 256 lbs.

I weighed myself on the scale in my parents' bathroom earlier this week. 216.3 lbs. I weighed myself last night. 216.9 lbs. I know what it was. Marble jack cheese (a combination of bleu cheese and colby jack cheese) from Sprouts, stunning deviled eggs my sister made for me, and I'm sure that's what did it. That's not to say I overindulged in either, but I had a little more than I should have. I'm not sitting in a corner somewhere in the house, bawling over slightly regained weight. I'm not that worried. My latest goal is fairly modest. I want to reach 200 lbs. by mid-December, but am hoping for somewhere in the late 190-range.

- Yesterday was an outstanding day. I received the revised cover of "What If They Lived?", as well as the proofs to look over, all in the .PDF format. Imagine if I had received the proofs in the mail and had to send them back marked up. These are the advances in technology I love, not iPods, iPads, iPhones and Kindles. I spent part of the day with the proofs yesterday, making sure that the words in there matched the words I wrote, and mostly they do. My writing partner did the editing, and I'm pleased so far. Some adjustments he made I'll have to rewrite to fit my own style, but I can live with what's there. However, I don't yet feel like working on the book this morning, since I want to shave off this crummy beard, and hopefully get in at least one basketball game today that's still sitting on the Tivo (amidst 4 or 5). I'll probably choose Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat. I tuned into the game last night when the Heat were beating the Suns at 114 to whatever, only to express my continued frustration with timeouts toward the end, because I have to extend the recording by half an hour to an hour, and I couldn't last night. So, reluctantly, I chose the edited midnight showing ESPN had of the game. Even though I don't like that they cut out some of the action in favor of moving the game along more swiftly, I'll take whatever basketball I can get right now. However, when the Lakers play the Timberwolves on Friday night, I'm making sure I get the whole game. Not so much because I'm a fan of either team (I prefer to float between teams), but because I want to see one from beginning to end, dammit! The last time I did that was during the NBA Finals many months ago. I want it again.

With all that out of my head, here we go.

Early yesterday morning, I had a series of "residual dreams" (what I call the ones you have while you're drifting in and out of consciousness before you wake up). The last one before I woke up was of a woman in bed, with an ass curved to look like Heaven. I'm a staunch leg man, but I consider the rear of the plane the bonus round. It's just lucky for me that it happens to be there, above two of my favorite pleasures in life.

So I thought, "Oh fucking great, another woman I can't have."

Remember, I'm waiting until we get closer to moving to Nevada before I start seriously pursuing the dating scene, whatever it is in and near Boulder City.

Well, a dream I had this morning before I woke up a little bit before 6 a.m. (I don't fight sleep anymore. When I wake up, I don't try to go back to sleep. My body tells me it's had enough sleep, depending on what I've done the previous day to either tire me out a lot or a little, and I go by that. It's fortunate for me that my body choose to get the day going before 6 now. That's enough for me, since I go to bed every night before 11 p.m.), made me think, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" much more than the previous dream.

I was in a plane, a smallish one, but one still with jet engines. However, this plane was apparently capable of flying at low altitudes, since it appeared to be a very local flight. I refuse to try to figure out why Sarah Palin and family were sitting in the row in front of me, though to my relief, they weren't involved at all in this dream. I attribute their appearance to having read her claim that she can beat Obama in 2012, a little while before I went to bed.

In the back were two girls. One was a blonde, but not a bubbly blonde. More of an I-can-kick-the-shit-out-of-this-day-and-get-exactly-what-I-want kind of blonde. Over the past few days, I've really been thinking about what kind of woman I want in my life, and I've hit upon one thing I will never compromise on: I want a partner-in-crime in life, someone with the same unseriousness about life as I'm rapidly working on to embrace fully. There's a scene in The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy where Nora Charles (Loy) says to Nick (Powell), "I read where they shot you five times in the tabloids." Nick replies, "That's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids." That's exactly what I want, and even though I want to date again soon enough, I will wait if that's what it comes to. I can easily learn about someone else's interests and perhaps become interested in those interests, too. I'm a naturally curious person. But I will not bend on that.

During the flight, this girl kept looking at me. Not staring, since she talked to her friend at various intervals, but she was looking at me. And I looked back and felt so strongly that this was the one girl I was looking for, and I needed to get up, sit next to her, and introduce myself. Not at all like Bud in Married with Children said to a girl in a movie theater in my favorite episode ("Movie Show," from season 7), "Hi. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm your new boyfriend," but confident enough that she'd still be interested after I started speaking. I wanted her.

Lucky for me, she and her friend jumped out of the plane into a field of sporadic flowers. Yes, jumped. The back door of the plane was still slightly open, since the plane was flying low enough so as not to require pressurization (I'm not sure if that's how it works on jet aircraft, since I haven't been much into aviation lately), and out they went, picking daisies or dandelions. I forgot which and it doesn't matter. I asked someone nearby what had happened and she told me that those two are daughters of employees of this airline, and they do that often.

I had my chance. It was right there. And my shock at what had just happened transferred into my waking state where I felt, well, a little devastated, I'll admit. Just a little. But mostly disappointed. She was perfect for me.

However, I turned on NPR on my radio while resting in bed until my dad and sister left for work (which I always do), and I thought to myself, "Well, at least I'm getting a lot closer to figuring out completely what I want in a woman. This is a good start."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Did It!

I went to bed around 10:40 last night.

I slipped in between my covers, pushed the "sleep" button on my radio (always set for 90 minutes), and as I tried to sink into my two pillows as much as I could (they're stacked), I listened to a conversation on 89.9 KCRW about cab drivers in Los Angeles. I didn't catch what the reason was for this discussion, because 20 minutes later, I was asleep.

I awoke briefly in the middle of the night and then returned to infinity.

Next time I was aware of anything, I heard my dad turn on the computer in the living room, open the wooden shutters, and call for the dogs to go out.

It was 6:15 a.m.

I did it! I slept 7 hours!

During my anxiety (I know, I know, I keep talking about it, but I'm still piecing together the wreckage, looking for concrete reasons, and so deeply thankful for changes I've made both in diet and lifestyle), one of my biggest worries was sleep, especially in those nights when I'd go to sleep at 11 p.m., wake at 1 a.m., and that would be it. No more. It got scary for quite a while.

This is an incredible start to improvement of my life, which has been helped by a steady influx of fruits and vegetables, which I won't break away from just because I'm feeling better. The stress I used to have in my body because of lack of sleep is gone. I feel a little tired right now at 3:37 p.m., but I'm supposed to. I spent a few hours sitting on the couch, thumbing through my mom's word seek puzzle magazines (I love Penny Press and loathe Dell), picking out the puzzles I wanted to do, and did them. I got up a few times, for the bathroom, for some water, and to switch magazines, and only when I was done did I stretch remarkably and went out to get the mail.

I think my body's now used to bedtime at or near 11 p.m., and waking up some time in the 6 a.m. hour. Out of everything that happened to me emotionally from this, I hoped for this the most. And now I got it. And I know that Ventura Harbor Village tomorrow will be a lot more enjoyable because of this. Not that I had the anxiety when we went there the first time, but it's going to mean a lot more to me now. I'm free.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Land and Sea Lunch, Movies, and a Job

Ever since I recovered from this anxiety after 5 and 1/2 months, I've been hoping for an absolutely perfect week, full of everything I'd want to do and would be game for.

So far, so good.

My body's getting used to going to bed at or a little bit before 11 p.m., and though I seem to wake up early, sometimes after 6 a.m., I don't mind, because that's enough sleep for me. Monday and today went well with that, though I looked at my clock and found out that it was only 4:41 a.m. Most of the time, I can get back to sleep without a problem, but there are those occasional instances where there's a tiny bit of that former full-blown fear that I won't be able to get back to sleep.

Today was perfect, and it began with a book of interviews with comedy writers called "Funny Business," including Louis Sachar, Beverly Cleary, and Judy Blume. I started it after I finished breakfast, at about 8 a.m., and finished it late in the morning, probably at around 11:40. It felt so good to read extensively and to actually finish a book, unlike all those months ago when I'd literally fill up my library card to the limit with 50 books, and be excited about the options available to me, but I'd never really finish anything.

Along with the reading, I turned on the Real Jazz channel on the XM radio we have in the house. Perfect. I use as bookmarks the paper hold slips that are in my library books, and I always keep a blue pen near me to write down any titles I find within the books that interest me, or, any names of jazz musicians I hear that I want to hear more of. (Screw the dangling preposition tightwad rule. It's my blog.) I have two of these slips so far (one from finishing "Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You" by T.M. Shine), and the third is in Jeff Dunham's autobiography, "All By My Selves," and there's already about four names of jazz musicians on that slip. Only before 3 p.m. did I turn on the TV and the Tivo to begin watching the episodes of Saturday Night Live I had recorded off of VH1. It feels so good to not use the computer that much anymore, and also not to watch as much TV as I did during the day. I'm not going to become one of those proponents of keeping the television off as much as possible, but I could live with it.

So that was today. Tomorrow, if I'm not called into Dad's school to be a substitute campus supervisor, I'm probably going to blast my way through the rest of "All By My Selves" by Jeff Dunham, and then start on "Giving Good Weight" by John McPhee, a collection of his writings for The New Yorker, which include a profile of a farmer's market, and dueling pinball champions. I'm fine with another quiet day, since I'm really anticipating Thursday, a blessed day.

Thursday is Veteran's Day, which means schools are closed, and my sister, who works as a one-on-one aide for a special needs kid, and Dad both have the day off. Friday's a furlough day, another day off, which means neither she or Dad get paid, and neither does anyone else in the entire school district. No idea what's on tap for Friday, but Thursday is going to be incredible. We'll start with a pit stop at the grand opening of Williams-Sonoma at the Valencia Town Center Mall, which my sister has been salivating over for a number of months now. They open at 10 a.m. (I don't mind, since I'm sure I'll be up by 6 and then resting and listening to Morning Edition on NPR), so we'll spend probably half an hour there, and then we'll be off to Ventura, to the Ventura Harbor Village. When I heard we were going to do this, I got excited for two major reasons:

1) Andria's Seafood Restaurant. Best clam chowder in California, based on my limited experience with the clam chowders of seafood restaurants in California. Last time, I ordered it in a bread bowl, and there turned out to be more bread than soup. A large bowl this time. I was going to order something with it, but a shrimp cocktail there is $6.99. I'm satisfied with just my soup. It turns out that the fish they use there comes from local waters. I like that.

2) My favorite spot in all of Ventura Harbor Village, which I can't wait to show Meridith. And it's not even anywhere near the harbor, not any of the boats I see, not any of the pedal boats. It's right in between one of the entrances to the arcade and the restrooms. You stand right there and you look up, and you see a window with a drawn shade, with a little strip of darkness underneath. Now, these places are for lease, but whether they're used solely for offices, or as residences, I'm not sure. But I love standing there, looking at that window, imagining the person who might use that as an office or residence. I prefer residence, because I imagine that person placing their bed right near that window, the foot of the bed right there. This jibes with when I was at my graduation from College of the Canyons in 2005, I think, and while ignoring the long-winded speech by the president of the school, I looked up at all the windows of the building looming over us, and I imagined that there must have been some crazy professor up there, sitting cross-legged amidst piles of papers on desk and floor, searching, searching for hidden meanings in "Moby Dick." I'm fascinated by people like that.

There's also an ice cream place in the village called Coastal Cone Ice Cream & Yogurt, which my mom loves. But no more for me. After I came out of the worst of the anxiety, I vowed to change my diet, and I have. I suspect that's what my nerves were screaming about, and it must have helped, because I don't feel anything exploding in my nervous system now. In the morning, I have Cheerios (for now, Honey Nut, since we ran out of regular Cheerios, which is my favorite) and either a banana or a pear. For lunch, depending on if I'm at work or at home, I have yogurt (reserved for home) or a peanut butter sandwich, carrot chips, and an apple. I also dig into any green stuff we have, which, right now, is bagged broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage) and baby spinach. I reserve dinner for the most sodium intake, though not to extremes.

Even though they do have fat-free yogurt at Coastal Cone, I don't think I'm going to partake in it. I asked my sister to put an apple in her pocketbook for me for after lunch. So a land and sea lunch. And the harbor with all the boats. Can't beat that.

I've no idea what we'll be doing on Friday, but I'm thinking of adding an extra day to my weekend plans.

The Saturday before last, I pulled "The Ramen Girl" DVD out of my stack of library materials, but couldn't get past the first few minutes. The writing was pretty bad. Instead, I watched yet again Stephen Sondheim's "Putting It Together." And from that, I decided to start something new, since I wake up early enough at the start of the day anyway.

As mentioned before, I seem to wake up more regularly around 6 a.m. During the weekdays, I'm ok with resting in bed for a while, listening to NPR. But on the weekend, as 7 a.m. passes, I don't want to do the same thing. So after that Saturday, I continued what I think might be a weekly tradition, at least until it's time to begin moving to Nevada.

Last Saturday morning, I had a double feature of "Down with Love" (from Netflix) and "Clerks II" (my own DVD). During the day, Wal-Mart finally received the copy of "Swing Vote" I ordered, and I was very excited about that. So on Sunday morning, I listened to the audio commentary on "Swing Vote" by director Joshua Michael Stern and co-writer Jason Richman.

I'm not sure if I'll always have a double feature on Saturday mornings, but since I watch far less movies now than I used to, I really like this idea of just lounging in bed, watching movies on weekend mornings. Today, I received "Just Wright" from Netflix, and plan to watch that on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, I'm going to listen to the director's commentary on "Undercover Brother." I've already planned the following Saturday morning: "The Joneses." And on the following Sunday morning: The audio commentary on "An American in Paris."

For me, this is the way to watch movies. I love having more free time to read books. Sometimes I'll use the Instant Viewing function on Netflix, but I haven't done it much lately, though there are a few movies I want to see on there, including "Mojave Moon," starring Danny Aiello.

One of the campus supervisors went to my dad yesterday because they needed a substitute campus supervisor for Monday. That would be me, and I love having a job again. I wish it was more than just this day, but I'll take it.

Plus, I'm also seriously thinking of forgoing the wait for Hanukkah and just buying "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" and "John Waters' This Filthy World" off Amazon Marketplace, to complete my DVD collection. After those two, I can't think of any other DVDs I want. I'll see if my parents can get me either "Jeopardy!" on Nintendo DS or one or two of the books of Neil Simon's plays.

I can't wait for the rest of this week to begin.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Dreams Build, But Probably Not to That Crescendo

She wouldn't talk to me.

No, that's not all.

She wouldn't even look at me.

I didn't know what I had done to have unfortunately achieved that tortuous degree of being ignored. I'm sure I rewound through my mind the moments we had spent together and wondered if anything within those moments had caused this.

Then I saw an old crush, Sara Mangan. 9th grade. We got to know each other a bit, and I wanted to date her, but she had a long-distance relationship going and didn't want to give that up. I asked her if she could think of any reason, out of everything she knew about me, why this girl would be so angry (I assume) to completely shut me out.

I finally get a girlfriend after not dating since 7th grade and somehow I screwed it up.

But yet, I didn't.

What you read was part of a dream I had, the second after the night before, in which I was with a girl who seemed very, very formal and mannerly. I was fascinated by her, wondering why she was the way she was, and also how she got to that personality quirk.

Two dreams in a row about girlfriends. The last time this happened was up to February 14, 1998, the day of the Valentine's Day Dance at Silver Trail Middle, which I couldn't go to since I had gotten into trouble for inadvertently giving the girl I was going with the password to something that was not meant to be given out. I don't remember what it was for, I didn't have any ulterior motives; I just gave it because I knew it. Not to a whole host of people, just her.

The day of the dance, I wasn't there, but she was there, moping around because I wasn't there. Irene became my girlfriend on that day, and it lasted for 6 months, until she and her family moved across the state of Florida to Naples, and we broke up amicably because a long-distance relationship seemed like a lot of work.

Up to that day, I had had many dreams about girlfriends and it led to this. There might be a third dream tonight about a girlfriend, maybe a fourth the next night, but I don't think it will lead to girlfriend #2. For one, I haven't made any effort in this valley to find anyone, though I do admire some of what I see in the stores in the area. My gold standard is the woman who retrieved my Site to Store order at Wal-Mart near Copper Hill Drive, who matched Julianne Nicholson in her glances and wore dark eyeshadow that I loved. But it wasn't only the eyshadow, it was the smoky personality she had. She was also probably 20 years older than me, but hey, I have great taste.

I see these dreams as helping me sort out exactly what I want. I've never thought of it beyond being a staunch leg man, helped along by Monica Haynick and her pantyhose in my 8th grade math class. Personality? I've got some idea now. I want a partner-in-crime in life, kind of like Myrna Loy was to William Powell in the first "Thin Man" movie in 1934. I want that kind of rapport, so yes, I require a woman with a sizable brain. But that's all I know so far.

Or who knows? If we end up going to Ventura Harbor Village this Thursday or Friday, my dream girl might be there. Maybe that's what these dreams are hinting at. But even if not, at least I'm finally thinking seriously about it and not thinking it strange of me to be thinking about it at all.

Addendum at 8:05 a.m. on November 9: No dreams about girlfriends last night. The most prominent dream I remember was some group of re-enactors performing on a mountain at dusk while the Santa Ana winds blew terribly, and the sparks some of their special effects produced made me worry that they might set the whole mountain aflame.

I'm not disappointed. I'm just glad to know for sure that I want this.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Many Changes

New agenda for my life ahead:

1) Figure out what I want to do in life. Really figure it out. Even though I love aviation, I decided not to pursue a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics online from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I don't want to be locked into homework again, plus, with the well over $6,500 tutition (with room and board, it would have been a whole lot more), I could probably find, and apply for, the scholarships necessary, but it's still a hefty fee. Plus, after filling out the FAFSA application, consulting with the university's financial aid office, and looking over the course load, I don't think I'm so much in love with the idea anymore. I'll still see if there's some kind of airport-based career available (initially, I really wanted to work on the ramp at McCarran International, with the planes parked at the gate, but I'm not sure yet what that requires), but I think I have more opportunities I can pursue based on my skills, a lot more than I thought before. For example, tomorrow I'm going back to my dad's middle school as a substitute campus supervisor, and though I wish I could be paid the same hourly salary as the person I'm subbing for, I like it. The campus gets deathly quiet after the kids have filed into the classrooms before each period, and I'm inspired by my surroundings, which I know will obviously change after my family and I have moved to Boulder City, Nevada. But I become really inspired when I'm just walking around the campus, doing my three laps before brunch, after lunch, and before it's time for my shift to end. I even came up with an idea for a play that involves a worker's plight in trying to find some space for himself, away from a windy day, and not finding any, including where would be most obvious, such as the usually empty teacher's lounge. Something like that. Tomorrow I'm bringing my mp3 player since one of the other campus supervisors sits in the golf cart, either listening to a radio, or some kind of player with video capabilities. A lot of right-wing radio emanates from the cart when he's in it (I'm not judging, just observing), so I figure I should have some music with me. I even downloaded off of Amazon "Something About You" by Level 42 and "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club, two songs I've wanted in my mp3 player for a long time. Now was the right time to download them.

2) My parents have not had an entirely stable marriage over 28 years. I've witnessed more fights, possibly thousands, than I ever thought would be possible, even over the most trivial things. I was with my mom the one time she truly threatened to walk out on my dad and had suitcases for herself, me, and my sister. I don't know how that fight managed to end with us having dinner as if nothing had happened, but I swear that one had to have ended because of some divine intervention. I used to reject the idea of dating and relationships, probably partly because of my parents, but also because there have always been tons of books I've wanted to read and tons of movies I've wanted to see. Plus, being a writer, a lot I've considered writing, but I'll get to that in a minute. After the anxiety I had, and after changing my diet and my sleeping habits (still a bit dicey at times, since I wake up in the middle of the night at least twice, but make sure that I don't panic about it and try to get back to sleep, which is successful), I've decided that I want to date. Sure I'm broke and I don't drive because I'm not on my dad's auto insurance (I have my license, but I don't have my own car, because I can't afford the car or the insurance), and sure the only job I have right now is as a campus supervisor, but I'm curious. I want to meet someone. I've got my mom, my dad, and my dear, wonderfully extroverted sister, but I want to see who might be out there for me. I used to overthink it, such as the responsibility involved in any relationship, the this and the that of the whole thing, such as phone calls, and the time you need to take each day to make it work, but I'm done overthinking things. I will still think about this as necessary, but I want to see if I could be really happy with someone. So far, my record remains at one girlfriend, Irene Diaz, in 7th grade. We broke up amicably when she moved across the state of Florida to Naples, and that's been it. I think it's time to explore. However, it'd probably be best to wait until after we move to Nevada since there's no point here in Santa Clarita. I've seen possibilities here. They're not my kind of possibilities.

3) I'm going to write again. Moreso, I'm going to write what I want. I'm not blaming all the movie reviews I wrote for preventing me from writing what I wanted, because they got me into the habit of writing regularly. But I remember the hours and hours I spent watching movies for Screen It, just to get the exact scene down when it involved violence, smoking, alcohol and drug use, sex, etc. The money was good, but that's all I did. Hours watching one movie, and even more hours spent writing my reviews. I truly believe they're the best reviews on the site, but it's not all I want to do with my days. When I began recovering from this bad bout of anxiety (it lasted 5 and 1/2 months, so I lost an entire summer, which, outside of the heat, I regret a little bit, but you sometimes have to go through hell to find out what's truly meaningful to you), I read the bits of plays I wrote and then abandoned, and some of them read pretty well. There are some concepts I know could work with more massaging, and some that most likely need complete do-overs, but I want to do this. I read part of a play of mine that takes place at Grad Nite at Disneyland, and I actually laughed at some of the lines I had written. This is where I want to be. I want to spend time with what are truly my words. The reviews I wrote, the hundreds of reviews, my words were there, but they were geared toward promoting someone else's work, good or bad. All that I've found in various folders on this computer, it's all mine. The most important thing I learned through this ordeal was that I need to do more for myself. I need to take care of me more than I had before, more than when I had spent more time emptying the ice cream tubs from the freezer and likely sending my nervous system into major shock, which I'll bet led to this. But here I am, new diet, new outlook, new everything. I want this. And with my first book coming out in January, it's time to do this already.

But first, Raising Hope. Two episodes tonight and it's already 9:31 p.m. (I Tivo'd them.) I have to be in bed by 11, because I'm expected up at 6 a.m., so it's time to start.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Still Here

It's definitely been a long time since May, but I'm still here. Life reorganization, figuring out who I am and all that after having co-written a book and deciding that film criticism probably won't sustain me for the rest of my life. It's a lot to take in when that's pretty much all I've done since I was a teenager, but I'm working on improving myself and figuring out where to go next.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heading for Las Vegas

Tomorrow morning, early, most likely between 7:30 and 8, we're leaving for Las Vegas. We're stopping to drop the dogs off in Canyon Country at a kennel that boards them, and then to McDonald's, and then out, stopping in Baker and the gas station/rest stop food court there before we charge into the real stretch of the Mojave Desert. We'll probably arrive in Vegas by a little before or after 3, because we're not going to eat at Richie's Real American Diner in Victorville, being that it sunk fast when we were there in March. Not as good as in 2008. The plummeting economy clearly hit it.

The purpose of this trip is a job interview my dad has on Thursday morning at a private school. It's the call we all were waiting for, the one that can get us to where we truly want to live. We're going to keep an open mind toward all the areas we visit, but the consensus seems to be Boulder City, near Hoover Dam. It feels comfortable, it's a genuine small town, and we determined that that's what we've been missing all this time, why Mom moved with Dad 12 times, and my sister and I about two or three times less.

On this evening before, my sister and I still have to pack, I have to put extra food into the birds' cages, and decide finally on what books I want to bring with me. I thought it would be two, knowing last time that I didn't even touch most of the books I brought, but being a voracious, obsessive reader, I'm not going to follow that. So far, it's five books, two issues of The New Yorker, and the "Fiction Issue" of the Atlantic from late last year. There is a difference now, in that the books are lighter, therefore my tote bag is lighter, and it'll be easier to lug it from the car to the hotel room (America's Best Value Inn again, off the Strip, adjacent to Hooters Casino Hotel, and surrounded on both sides by a Motel 6), and back to the car on Friday morning. The big question in my mind right now is whether to bring along Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, too. I'm also thinking about whether to bring Saturday Night by Susan Orlean, so I can finish it, but I'm not sure. It might make good travel reading, being that Orlean traveled to different locales in the United States to study different Saturday nights. Maybe.

I'm also thinking about souls I've met in the past who I know I won't see again. It was 2008 when we saw Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay, and on the way to Vegas, we stopped in Baker at the same gas station/rest stop that's one of our reliable beacons. This was when construction had been completed on the gas station, and so the property was wider, with a lot more to look at, more snacks, drinks, and generally useless items you wouldn't buy in your normal daily life. That's the fun of it.

I remember this huge truck driver who was hanging around, talking to someone at the Pizza Hut counter for a few minutes. He had a bulk around him that seemed like it would spill over his seat in his truck. I liked him, though. He had resolve. He also had this huge 72 oz. travel mug, and he walked over to the soda dispenser, and drained whatever was his choice. I wasn't looking closely, but I was impressed by him. He seemed to be truly of the road. This was his home. He stopped here to replenish himself, and any number of motels on the way were what he found comfort in, what was always reliable to him. I have no desire to travel that extensively, but I enjoy watching people like that, who truly know that they belong here and they have no second thoughts about it. It would be something if I saw him again tomorrow in Baker, but I doubt it. It's going to be Wednesday afternoon by the time we get there, and I'm sure he'll be out on the road, guiding his rig, thinking, listening to the radio, the CB too, with another travel mug wedged in with him. Tomorrow doesn't feel like the day I'd see him. Thursday maybe. Hey, maybe Friday. We'll be on our way home then. But even if not, the fascinating personalities encountered while traveling are endless.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It Happened Five Minutes Ago. I Swear It Did.

I remember arriving at Los Angeles International with my parents and sister. I remember leaving the Boeing 757, walking down the jetway, and out of that gate, into the airport. I don't remember if we stopped at the luggage carousel, though we probably did, because at Fort Lauderdale International on that late March day in 2003, we had luggage to give at the American Airlines counter. At LAX, I was more in awe of the sheer size of that particular terminal, quite sure that it could be its own civilization. It looked like it.

This piece of a memory came from watching the latest episode of Modern Family last night on the Tivo. I don't watch it often, since I like The Middle more, but because most of it was set at Los Angeles International, and because I am an aviation enthusiast and want to work at an airport in the coming years, I had to see this episode. I was paying attention to Jay's growing displeasure at his family joining him on this trip to Hawaii, and Claire's severe fear of flying, but looking at that airport, the escalator (which I don't think I ever saw), the little shops in between, I also thought about 5 or 6 a.m., 10 days later, when we arrived back on the property to return the car we rented to the small agency nearby, and to be shuttled to our terminal. I think the flight was within the 9 a.m. hour, but it was the first true L.A. darkness I had ever seen. Staying at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, with its aviation decorations (since it was right next to Van Nuys Executive), and driving to Santa Clarita (a chilly, stinging rain on that day, when we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain), and San Diego (so warm, inviting, and seemingly so relaxed, that I wanted to live there right away, but there was no job for Dad there), and many other locales, there was nighttime, of course, but I had never paid attention to it like I had on that morning. Ok, that's not completely true, because I had stood on the balcony of our two-bedroom hotel room, watching the activity at Van Nuys Executive at about 10 p.m. each evening. But then, the darkness was in relation to the airport, and I was more interested in the airport. I would watch some planes take off against the at-times barely visible outline of the mountain some miles away, and only the plane had my attention.

I think back to comparisons. On the flight to Los Angeles, the movie was Brown Sugar, which had fine actors in Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, but I thought it would never end. After, there was the pilot episode of Still Standing, and I think an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. It was a lunchtime flight, and one of the selections was a chicken-and-rice dish that was actually pretty good.

On the flight back, I Spy was shown, and I wanted to jump out of the plane. It was bad enough that breakfast was a soggy something, either waffles or an imitation of them. Cereal cannot be screwed up, and fortunately, that was part of the meal, the only worthwhile part. I didn't care that Eddie Murphy was suddenly paired up with Owen Wilson, I didn't care about the plot, and, at that point, Famke Janssen still hadn't done anything worthwhile since Goldeneye. Here's the thing, though. It's not that I didn't want to go home because California was so great. I was still perplexed by it, trying to understand why Dad insisted on possibly moving there. Apparently, he'd liked it when he went in the '70s, but he couldn't have expected it to remain the same. This is the same man who, when we were evacuated from our home for a day in October 2007 because of a nearby wildfire, said that he didn't think any wildfires could actually be in our valley. Let that not be viewed as a slight against him. I don't mean it that way. It's just that on that trip and the next trip out that he and Mom took, and our eventual move here, he didn't know a whole lot about Southern California. Very little study went into what each area was and what they could have meant for us. He was going to lose his teaching job in Pembroke Pines, Florida, because of then-governor Jeb Bush's edict on expanding the importance of the FCAT exam, to the severe detriment of many electives, including business education, which was to be cut. So we had to go. There was nothing else. And he didn't want to do anything else. He had been a teacher again since 1996 (before that, he worked for Southern Bell, which then became BellSouth, for 19 years; before that, a teacher for a time in the New York public school system), and he wasn't going to let go of it. He's good at it. But California? I didn't feel close to any of its southern regions as closely as I did with nearly all of Florida, my home state. Every part of Florida is manageable. 25 minutes to Fort Lauderdale from Pembroke Pines, no matter the traffic. And downtown there always offered things to see, such as the Museum of Discovery and Science and the main Broward County Library branch. And the art museum.

Southern California has all those things, I know. But it's the split areas I don't like, split by freeways. I may be a resident of Southern California, but I'm only a true resident of Santa Clarita. I'm a tourist in Pasadena, in Burbank, obviously in San Francisco, which I'd expect, but even in downtown Los Angeles, in Palmdale, too.

But I've mentioned all that before in a previous entry. I'm just stunned at how fast these six and a half years have passed. There have been days that I've wanted to hug close, to extend to more than the time I was given. I wanted to wrap myself up in certain hours and disappear into each moment, taking each moment in for half an hour to walk through them. I loved Friday afternoons at College of the Canyons, when the campus was so empty that I felt like I owned it. I remember my graduation from there, sitting in one seat, one row of what must have been 20 rows on the grass in the Honor Grove, bored with the too-long speech by the head of the school, looking up at the windows in one of the buildings, wondering if any professor there was eccentric enough that they were possible sitting cross-legged on the floor, frantically paging through Moby Dick, trying to find a certain word that they remembered the most from it.

There are countless more memories like this, and I'll probably put them here over time. I still miss the apartment in Valencia. There was more to see, more to do, more to know there. But I won't miss this entire valley when we move to Las Vegas. That's where I want to be now, and when I read books on its history, I always feel I can belong to it. That's most important to me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Art I Saw, and Want to See Again

Three rooms of European paintings at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, so high up in these yodeleehooooooooooooooooooooooo mountains that you have to take a tram to get to the museum. $15 for parking, and $49 for lunch for Mom, Dad, Meridith and me. The lunch was so worth it, with a $7.75 chicken burrito that actually looked like $7.75. It was stuffed that full with masterfully grilled chicken, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and rice. I've never seen a burrito made that quickly, not even at Taco Bell, and this person not only knew the routine, but seemed to care about the routine. There was still some inkling within her that's devoted to this museum. Not that I doubt how much she might like working for the Getty Museum. It may only be a job to her, but there was some pride in how she placed each ingredient. It was a ramrod straight stack that only fell apart a few minutes after I took the toothpick out of it at our table and began to reach the end of it. I didn't mind. I had utensils, and a cup of sour cream, and actually, a mini burrito salad on my plate. I scarfed the rest of it up, and after a yogurt parfait with granola and raspberries ($6.75, but also worth it), I sat satisfied. It reminded me of when we walked the outdoor grounds before we found the cafe. I looked at the people passing by, I admired the appearance of many of the women (inspiration can come from anywhere; simple, but I stick by it every day), and I wondered why my life couldn't be like this every day. I'm not going to badmouth Southern California here, because I've done it enough already and between this, and the new route for walking that I found in my neighborhood, I see it as a sign that we're getting the good things now that will possibly lead to Southern Nevada calling soon for my dad for a teaching position.

After lunch, we went to the Getty pavilion that housed the exhibits we wanted to see. Meridith had a yen for an exhibit of food photographs. On the table at lunch, I found a plastic, vertical rectangular ad block that pushed "Urban Panoramas," and I noticed one photo that was of an empty parking garage. I love those kinds of photos. I get more out of the tire streaks on a parking garage floor than from the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, which became the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George.

When we got to the West Pavilion, we went to the second floor, where there was three rooms of European art. Mostly French. Some British. The only ones I really liked were the British ones, two in particular; one of a family torn up by one of their own being on trial, and waiting for a verdict, and the second one with the family in great relief after an apparent "not guilty" verdict. Reminded me of Dickens, and that's exactly what the writing next to the painting mentioned.

But that was it. I like some of Paul Cezanne's works, but I can't see having his work in frames on my walls at home. However, when we got to the exhibit I wanted to see (we saw the food photograph exhibit first, and the only two I really liked were a shot of a full pantry, and someone's freezer in the early '70s), I was stunned by the panoramas of New York City by Jeff Chien-Hsiang Liao. I never imagined photographs could be so alive. I've seen dramatic ones by newspaper photographers, but the major thing about Liao's photographs is that there are always people hidden. Not purposely hidden, but you look at what the photo is first. It's the entrance to the subway, the baseball stadium, a vantage point from Times Square. You see the immediate people, the trash cans, the big signs advertising the latest of what people should consume. But then you look further back. You see a gray-haired woman with a confused expression. You look at the photo of the storefront in Queens and you not only see the big standing box of watermelons next to the door. You see two people inside that store, still in that aisle you can see, waiting for their items to be rung up. There is always something to look at in his photographs, and the atmosphere to feel. Really feel. You can't know just by his photograph what it truly means to be in New York City, but you get at least half of that feeling. Maybe above half.

Right now, I'm looking at the photos on his website, including the ones at the Getty exhibit and also ones not featured there, and the impact is not at all there. I can't see the three guys very well who stand at the bottom right corner of the photo of the Iron Triangle (a kind of auto row) in Flushing, Queens. The guy I saw in that photo with the pen in his mouth? I recognize him by his shirt, but I cannot see the pen this way. At the exhibit, I said to Mom that if they had resized some of Liao's photos for bookmarks, I would buy them. I wouldn't. And I'm glad I didn't find any in the two museum stores we visited. These photos should stay as they are. Because of the lunch we had that was far better than most restaurants we go to, we might be back some time in May. I hope so, because the exhibit featuring Liao's work ends on June 6. I want to see those expansive photos again, and also be disappointed again that no personal photography is allowed in the exhibit. I wouldn't want to capture the photos directly, just the atmosphere of that room.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Where is David Henry Hwang?

It's 2:30 a.m. (yesterday morning), and I'm sitting on the floor near my dad's chair at the dining room table, checking what books I want to return to the library in order to pick up some of the books on hold for me. To return 30 in order to pick up all the holds would be impossible. I always have that futile hope that somehow, in a week, before picking up the next round of holds, I can read everything I decided to keep.

The books form a half moon in front of me. With my favorite click pen in my right hand, a blue ink Pentel R.S.V.P., and my eight-page library card printout in my left hand, I make sure Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich is next to Architecture of the Old South: South Carolina, a hefty coffee-table book that I checked out to get a sense of home for others, ahead of the maybe-in-a-few-months possibility of finally regaining a real home, this time in Boulder City, Nevada. Last time was when I was a kindergartner in Casselberry, Florida. My elementary school, Stirling Park, was actually in the neighborhood.

I look over at the playwrights I intend to return. Tennessee Williams ("American Blues: Five Short Plays") is at the top of a small stack. Christopher Durang ("Baby with the Bathwater and Laughing Wild: Two Plays") is below him, followed by Terrence McNally ("Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune"), Arthur Miller ("Danger, Memory!: Two Plays"), Ellen Byron ("Graceland and Asleep on the Wind: Two Short Plays") , Robert Anderson ("You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running"), and Edward Albee ("Counting the Ways and Listening: Two Plays"). Michael McClure ("The Beard") sits in front of these noteworthy names. He's small-looking enough in size that I don't want to lose him when he goes into my tote bag. When my father had a week-long spring break two weeks ago, we went to San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino during the week, and I got a few ideas within this setting for either a play or two one-act plays, involving only two characters. I intended to read these to learn about the form, as all of these playwrights had written exactly what I was looking for. But other writers got in the way, as well as myself, finishing my first book and sending the results to my writing partner. Since then, he e-mailed me back, saying that he's "extremely proud" of what I've "put forth." It's a huge relief. It took a year. Actually, a little over 365 days was all I had. It's a lot shorter as a deadline, though I suspect forthcoming ages will cut it even closer than that.

I put checkmarks next to these writers on my library card printout. I always reach the limit of 50 items. I count the books in front of me. 17. Eric Puchner ("Model Home") makes 17. As said before, other writers got in the way. My reading desires vary wildly each week. Plus, with returning to writing reviews for Screen It, I need to figure out what my priorities are in books. Being that I strive for at least 99% accuracy in my reviews, I try to get dialogue exact when applicable, gunfire described completely, including what character shot what weapon and at whom, and profanity. My first film back will be Goodfellas. You can imagine how much time that may take. It's for parents, however (with the only slant in each review being the section reserved for the standard movie review, called "Our Take"), and they should have the most information possible. Plus, I get paid for this and I want to do the best job possible. I also have to begin the process of financial aid and signing up for classes online from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. My future career lies in aviation, definitely at an airport. I'm not sure exactly what I want to do yet, but I have a few ideas.

I shouldn't have 17 books to return, though. I should have 18. Where is number 18? Where is David Henry Hwang ("FOB and Other Plays")? I walk over to the stack I have within a winding faux-marble stand that exists to hold some of our dogs' toys and other things. I use one shelf for my books. I look at the nine-count stack that's there, and I can't find Mr. Hwang. I go to my room to look at where I kept a few of these playwrights, figuring that if they were in my room, I'd be quick about getting to know them. He's not there. There's that book about presidential history, and on the bottom of that stack, that large book of cartoons by Roz Chast, but Mr. Hwang had not decided to spend time near my copy of Around the World in 80 Days which would have been adjacent to him.

I go back to the living room, back to the books still on the floor. I upend the playwrights I've already collected, hoping that I merely overlooked him. I look on the dining room table, where I've placed books I checked out the previous week, and am now only beginning to get to know. He's not there either. I begin to worry about having to pay for Mr. Hwang taking up residence in my house. I also worry about if I might have accidentally left him behind at the library the previous week. Did one of the librarians find him and put him back in my box after scanning his barcode and finding out that he had already been checked out to me? When I walk into the library, will one of them tell me that they found him and here he is?

I go back to my room. I look at the books in the stack nearest to the head of my bed. Cory Doctorow is waiting with Makers, Michael Dobbs wants to tell me all about the delightfully nefarious politician Francis Urquhart, and believes three books ("House of Cards," "To Play the King," and "The Final Cut") should be sufficient enough for the task. There's other writers waiting, such as John Kiriakou ("The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror"), but none of them know of Hwang, and he's not in that stack either.

I begin to wonder: Is Mr. Hwang miffed that I didn't have time for him? Is he hiding out of spite? Is he so eager for me to get to know him that he's hoping I don't find him so that I only go to the library with 17 books, and therefore can only pick up 17 of my holds? He's not due back at the library yet anyway, but I need to let in Elif Batuman. I've waited long enough for her to arrive with her obsession over Russian literature ("The Possessed"). Besides putting other writers on hold on my card, I check every day on what writers wait for me to pick them up, and four people were always ahead of me on her dance card. That number didn't move in my favor for weeks. Now she arrived, and I wanted to know what she knew and loved about Russian literature.

I go back to the stack sitting on a shelf of that stand. Bottom to top. Noel Coward is at the bottom with his diaries. At the top, a bunch of writers are clustered together with much to say about Mark Twain in The Mark Twain Anthology. Below that is something dark. I can't see it very well because the living room light shines into my parents' bedroom, and I can't use it. The dining room light remains on its lowest setting overnight so they can sleep soundly. That's the deal we made about two months ago, unless I really need the living room light, but I don't.

The darkness below The Mark Twain Anthology becomes what I call "hallelujah light." Even though the light's not physically there, I feel it brightening. I found Mr. Hwang. It's a relief vastly different from passing a math test despite no confidence in the studying having done any good. I don't mean any disrespect toward Mr. Hwang. I want his help soon in understanding how a two-person play works, the possible ways of writing it, the necessary beats to keep an audience interested.

With him accounted for, I fill my tote bag. He's second from the top. I can't promise him that I'll ask to have him back right away, since I have to begin my education with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and refamiliarize myself with the routine of writing reviews for Screen It. But despite the work involved in both, I think he'll be back with me soon enough, teaching me what he thinks I should know.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Here I Am, A Nearly-Published Author

It's been less than 12 hours since I finished adding more details to one of my sentences in my Paul Lynde essay. It's 1:10 a.m., and at 2:04 p.m. yesterday, that marked the completion of my share of my first book. I'm done. It's over. Well, all over but the possible editing. We'll see what my writing partner determines about my essays. My Judy Garland essay is 12 pages, and though he said some of it should be trimmed, I honestly can't see what to take out. It's not because of my writing that I say that, but because I've put in every possible thing important to learning about Judy Garland's life if a few of my readers haven't already. Do I take out the process of reaching the start of filming on The Wizard of Oz? Does the start of her career at MGM not matter? Of course it does. As I see it, all details in that essay matter.

But for now, before I begin that part of the process of this book, before thinking about what to write in my blurb (the one detailing the author's origins, living space location, and previous accomplishments, if any), and what photo I should use for my little square, or take a new one, I'm sitting here wondering how the hell I did all this. There were many times I wanted to quit writing this book, such as when I spent last July 4th evening sitting at the dining room table, reading Gerrold Frank's Judy Garland biography, watching the fireworks on CBS from there. I told my Mom many times that I didn't want to do this anymore, and she told me I needed to push ahead because this kind of opportunity, where I was simply made a co-author, with publication guaranteed, would probably not happen again. At 26 years old, this is my first book.

I also remember not long after I accepted Phil's offer to be co-author, being at the Ontario Mills Mall, sitting on a squarish metal bench at a Skechers store while Mom, Dad, and Meridith were looking around, silently freaking out over all there was to do for this book. All the books to check out of the library (I think 20-25 is the final count. I'll pinpoint it more accurately in a few days when I look over all my notes again to see), all the websites to visit, all the experts to find to have them speculate on what these actors might have done with their careers and their lives had they not died. I'd never done this before. I had only written, at most, 1,100 words in movie reviews. Screen It does take up a lot more words than that in every review, but that's online, and I was, and still am, comfortable enough with the format.

A review for Film Threat maybe reaches the top of page 2 in Word, and a few lines down. That's it. I knew, in my all-over worry, that each essay would have to be more pages than that.

I remember one night early in the project when I was reading a biography about the silent film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and I was so frustrated with having to read and take notes at the same time (I'm a speed reader. I've been reading since I was two years old), that I couldn't possibly continue without something to distract me and yet allow me to keep on working at it. From my local library, which was then Valencia, I had checked out The Prince of Tides on DVD. You already know which one got more attention. I never saw it, but had seen Yentl and The Mirror Has Two Faces, Barbara Streisand's other directorial efforts. I couldn't work while I was watching it. All throughout the film, I was stunned by her artistic sensibilities. She's truly an artist behind the camera, in shepherding performances, deciding on cinematography, and picking out those locations which best embody the story. I wish she would direct more movies. Three are not enough.

I'm not sure what book I was reading and taking notes on (Maybe it was Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl by Betty Harper Fussell, about silent film comedienne Mabel Normand), but another time, boredom set in heavily again, and I rewatched, over and over, my favorite scenes in Angels in America, which I bought from Marshalls for $6. A treasured bargain, and I also picked up Truman for $3. I particularly like the scenes between Mary Louise-Parker and Justin Kirk in that Cocteauesque room with the red curtains.

I remember not doing anything for this project last December, nursing an addiction to Farmville and Cafe World on Facebook. I didn't play them all day, since there were books I wanted to read, and certainly not all night, because I had, and still have, the freelance writing newsletter to work on, but it took up a goodly amount of time. It was partly that I didn't feel like working on the book, but also because of a total lack of confidence. It was never, "Can I really do this?" It was always, "I don't think I can do this." There were many nights for months when I laid in bed, staring up at my ceiling fan, feeling that acute stress over all the essays I still had to write, the people I still had not interviewed, the facts that seemed hard to arrange into a readable order. In early February, I was thinking about how the hell I was supposed to read about '40s actress Carole Landis in preparation to write an essay about her, while overseeing these other 19 essays. The book I bought from Amazon, Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood by E.J. Fleming, was $35.95, and it was so badly written, without any editing to guide it. Fleming made the same point three times in the same paragraph, and I didn't like having to slog through so many facts pressed together. There was no detailed context, no real description. Based on all the research the book contained, I saw Fleming's passion, but I couldn't see myself spending more time reading this book just to get plenty of notes to turn into an essay. By e-mail, Fleming was agreeable to speculation about what Landis might have done in her life, but I couldn't take it. Plus, at that point, the deadline for the book had been March 15 (Phil then moved it to April 1, and finally, April 15, tomorrow). I had written only six essays, with 13 more to go. I e-mailed Phil, told him about the book and that I couldn't do a proper job with this essay, and asked him to take it. For me, that meant 19 essays instead of 20, but 19 is better when you're interested in the many figures you're researching. And despite the price of the book, I pitched it into the recycling bin. Not that I have that kind of money regularly, and I know I could probably have given it to the Salvation Army store location near me, but I didn't want that book in my room anymore. But I did get to claim it on my taxes as an expense. At least I got something good for my trouble.

I know that year I spent on the book is gone. It's strange, though, that I can't feel now all the little things that bothered me during the research and the writing. Now it's like sitting serenely on a deep green hill, a slight, pleasant breeze around me, and the sun beginning to set. I didn't expect trumpets to blare when I finished writing my share of this book, or a ticker tape parade to happen. The world keeps moving. The traffic is still worse. Some of the prices at my local supermarkets are still too high. It's important to know that, because I can, and should, write anything I want. I'm already thinking about what I want to write next, and I think I have an idea for another book, but I'm not sure if there will be enough material to merit a book. I plan to do some research over the next two months to see if there is. And even though I won't have a publisher this easily again, I want to try it on my own. In January, I'll have one book to my name. That's a fine start.